Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 93 (The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This anonymous New Persian prose translation of a Pahlavi Middle Persian text entitled Ardā Vīrāf nāmag (The Story of Viraf), recounts the dream-like journey of a hermit named Vīrāf to the underworld.
Author and Translator: Anonymous
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): بنام ايزاد بخشاينده مهران كتاب ارداويراف نثر نوى شد. و اما بعد ایدون گویند که چون شاه اردشیر بابکان به پادشاهی بنشست نود پادشاه بکشت و بعضی گویند نود شش پادشاه را بکشت و جهان را از دشمنی خالی کرد و آرمیدع گرداندید
Explicit: برگ ٣٧ر (folio 37a): واحوال چنین که نموده آمد خداوند مارا از همه بلاها وغزابها نگاه دارد و دین به آویژ ما زدیسنان را ما همان دارد و از بلای اهرمن از من دور کناد و شرم مردگانو سخر اهرمن از من دور کناد و شرم مردگان و سخر اهرمن و و دیوان به لعنت در راه مامباد چه این نیکی و بدی این جهان به سرآید اگر نیک بود و اگر بد بنماید و بدان جهان اندوه خوردن و پشیمانی بکارسود ندارد از جمله گناهان که دانسته نباشه (کذا) است اجش اواخش پشیمان و بیفتم (؟) بیاید گفت تمت تمام شد این کتاب ارداویراف.
Colophon: No colophon.
Language(s): Persian

Except for minor differences, the beginning of the text comports with India Office Library IO Islamic 830 (see Ethé, 2818), albeit under a slightly variant title: کتاب ارداویراف نثر نوشته شد For a poetic translation into New Persian by Zartusht Bahrām Pazhdū, see Rylands Persian MS 41.

For English translations, see Rieu catalogue. For modern Persian translations by Ghulām Riz̤ā Rashīd Yāsamī, (1896–1951) 1314 SH (1935 CE), Muḥammad Muʿīn, 1918-1971 1325 SH (1946 CE) and Raḥīm ʿAfīfī, including the Pahlavi text by Reza Navabpour 1342 SH (1963 CE), see Mushār.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 38 folios (ff. ii + 38 + ii ).
Dimensions (leaf): 190 × 108 mm.
Dimensions (written): 145 × 80 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in pencilled Arabic numerals at the upper-left corners of the a sides.


Catchwords on lower-left corners of the b sides.


In excellent condition.


Written in 1 column with 13 lines per page; folio 38 blank. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Highly stylish nasta‘līq with shikastah ligatures in black; rubrics in red.

Additions: Inscriptions:
  • Signed ‘S. H. Lewin’ on the second right flyleaf a side (f. iia) by former owner Samuel Hawtayne Lewin in 1829, under which appears the title, ‘Persian History of Ardavirafe’.
  • Also pencilled by Lewin on the first right flyleaf b side (f. ib) : ‘From the Library of Dr Alex. Nicoll [Alexander Nicoll (1793–1828)] Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Oxford’ followed by a brief description of the work, referencing Hyde and adding that ‘I possess a copy, formerly Dr. Guise's’ (referencing what is now Rylands Persian MS 41).
  • Folio 1a bears ‘No. 23’ written by an unidentified hand.
  • Left paste-down, ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘1/K’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 315’.


Evidently rebound in Europe. Resewn on two recessed cords, laced into the pasteboards, edges spattered in blue, with red and white single-core endbands sewn in silk at head and tail. Rebound in full speckled calfskin leather.

Boards hand-tooled with central ornaments featuring a quail perched upon an oval within vegetal scrollwork vines, detached floral pendants, vegetal scrollwork corners, and the margins bounded by double-fillet lines, with spine panels also palleted with double fillet lines and central octafoil rosettes, all in gold

198 × 118 × 11 mm.

In good condition but opening restricted to the gutter margins and spine abraded.


Origin: Iran or India; undated, but likely late 18th to early 19th century.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by Alexander Nicoll (1793–1828), after whose death London firm Sotheby and Son sold his library in two sales in 1829, from which legal clerk Samuel Hawtayne Lewin (1795–1840) evidently acquired it, as indicated by his inscriptions on the right flyleaves (ff. ib–iia).

Later acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death London antiquarian Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his oriental manuscripts to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in 1866.

Purchased by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford (1847–1913).

Bequeathed by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) in 1908 to the John Rylands Library.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based on an index created by Reza Navabpour circa 1993, derived from a manuscript handlist by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s, subsequently published as Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 1898.

Manuscript description by Jake Benson in 2022 with reference to the volume in hand, and in consultation with Ursula Sims-Williams, British Library.


The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader, see Becoming a Reader for details. Please contact uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk for further information on the availability of this manuscript.

Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile)


    Rylands Persian MS 41.
    H. Ethé, Catalogue of Persian manuscripts in the library of the India Office Vol. 1, (London: India Office Library, 1903), cols. 1518–1519, nos. 2818–2819 [IO Islamic 830 and 2506].
    P. Gignoux, 'Ardā Wīrāz', Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, Vol. II, Fasc. 4 (1986) pp. 356–357.
    Martin Haug, Edward William West, and Hoshang Jāmāsp Asānā, The book of Arda Viraf. Bombay [Mumbai]: Government Central Book Depot, 1872.
    T. Hyde, Historia Religionis Veterum Persarum, Eorumque Magorum (Oxonii: E Theatro Sheldoniano, 1700), pp. 18, 278, 361, 419
    D. Kargar, 'Ardāy-Vīrāf Nāma: Iranian Conceptions of the Other World' PhD dissertation, Uppsala Universitet, Iranska språk, 2009.
    K. Mushār, Fihrist-i Kitāb'hā-yi Chāpī-i Fārsī, Vol. I Pt. 2 (Tehran: Chāpkhānah-ʼi Urzhang, 1350 SH [1971– CE]), p. 221.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. I (London: British Museum1879), pp. 47–48 [BL Roy. 16 B. ii and Add. 6940].
    E. Sachau and H. Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Vol I. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), cols. 1112–1113, no. 1950 [Bodl. Or. 719].
    Sotheby and Son, Catalogue of the Entire Oriental, and Classical and Biblical Library of the Late Rev. Alexander Nicoll, LLD., Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Oxford, Canon of Christ Church, F. R. S. &c &c... Which Will Be Sold by Auction, by Messrs. Sotheby and Son, Wellington Street, Strand, on Wednesday, January 21st, 1829, and Three Following Days. [London]: Sotheby & Son, 1829.
    Sotheby and Son, Catalogue of a valuable collection of books... to which are added the remaining books of the late Dr.. Alexander Nicoll, LLD., Which Will Be Sold by Auction by Messrs. Sotheby and Son, Wellington Street, Strand, on Wednesday, March 11th, 1829. [London]: Sotheby & Son, 1829.
    Fereydun Vahman, Ardā Wirāz Nāmag: the Iranian "Divina Commedia". London: Routledge, 2017.
    J. Wilson and E. B. Eastwick, The Pársí Religion: As Contained in the Zand-Avastá, and Propounded and Defended by the Zoroastrians of India and Persia, Unfolded, Refuted, and Contrasted with Christianity (Bombay [Mumbai]: American Mission Press, 1843) pp. 417-427; 477–522 [Eastwick's translation].

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute



Comment on this record

Please fill out your details.

How are we using your feedback? See our privacy policy.

See the Availability section of this record for information on viewing the item in a reading room.